There is no outrage on the part of others when my rights are violated. Oh, I get a lot of sorries, many awkward silences, reprisals for not disclosing my disability in advance, avoidance etc. What I do not get often is a warm reception and support from strangers. While it pales in comparison to what Alice Dreger has experienced, I have taken much heat over the last year because of my essay in Atrium. I do not know what to make of my experience. I do know the controversy that erupted clouded the fine work of other scholars who contributed to Atrium. I do know the controversy did not prompt a discussion about sexuality and disability. To this end, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a short opinion piece I wrote. Link: http://chronicle.com/article/Sexual-Healing/232765/#disqus_thread
Here are the final few paragraphs: I knew there was a possibility that my essay would cause controversy. But the controversy I imagined revolved around disability, sexuality, and the professionalism of health-care workers. Having spent most of my adolescence on various neurological wards, I am well aware that health care is a series of complex relationships among people with divergent backgrounds and expectations. That is why I think that sexual relations between patients and health-care professionals is inappropriate.
I wanted to write about a unique and little-known history. Medical technology was not revered as it is today, mostly because it was absent. In place of technology, and in the absence of a universally accepted approach to rehabilitation, health-care workers were wildly creative. The focus was on what a body could do at a given level of injury. Walking was dismissed, and new forms of navigating the world were embraced. No idea was off the table, if it could help someone function in the wider world.
Such creativity is largely absent today. With an average length of stay for in-patient rehabilitation about 55 days, people with spinal-cord injuries cannot possibly learn all they need to know about bowel and bladder control, skin care, and so on. Teaching those imperative, but mundane, life skills does not attract patients or generate revenue. Instead, rehabilitation centers market and brand themselves around various forms of expensive, cutting-edge technology or a focus on cure.
Those approaches perpetuate feel-good stories about people overcoming paralysis and learning how to walk, thus increasing even more the stigma associated with using a wheelchair. That is a social failure for newly paralyzed patients and their families. Thinking about what people with disabilities can do rather than what they can’t do requires imagination — which my "head nurses" had in abundance.